Editor's Note: Below please find a decision of the Supreme Court of Ohio regarding failing to supervise the use of your signature and entering contracts without your permission. It is a strong warning to attorneys and should be read by all. Best regards, Jim Schwartz
THE SUPREME COURT OF OHIO
250 CIVIC CENTER DRIVE, SUITE 325
COLUMBUS, OHIO 43215-7411
FAX (614) 461-7205
November 30, 2012
Ms. Virginia Miller, Esq.
Smith and Miller
36 West Jefferson St.
Jefferson, OH 44047
RE: A WARNING to New Lawyers
Dear Ms. Miller:
On November 5th the Supreme Court of Ohio swore in nearly 900 new attorneys. After the court issued its decision in Disciplinary Counsel v. Lorenzon, 2012 WL 4944302 (Ohio) we met with representatives from the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. These folks told us that the fact pattern of Lorenzon is commonplace, that new/young attorneys are being targeted, often by ads similar to the one enclosed that appeared on craigslist [Editor's note: attached to original letter, but not reprintable because of copyright], by out of state credit repair and foreclosure rescue operations to act as the Ohio “face” for and assist in their consumer fraud. As we know that more new lawyers than ever are starting solo practices right out of law school, this is an issue of grave concern.
At his hearing, Mr. Lorenzon testified that Consumer Law Group (CLG), a Florida law firm that negotiates debt on behalf of consumers, placed an ad in his law school’s placement office. Lorenzon responded to the ad and agreed that he would be paid $1000 annually to serve as local counsel for CLG and that he would execute a contract with each Ohio client. To facilitate the execution of the contracts, Lorenzon provided CLG with his electronic signature and Ohio attorney registration number. CLG used these items to enter into at least four contracts with Ohio residents without Lorenzon’s knowledge. The court determined that in failing to properly supervise the use of his signature, Lorenzon had exposed vulnerable and unsuspecting Ohio consumers to the questionable practices of an out-of-state debt negotiation firm and violated Prof. Cond. R. 8.4(h). He received a six-month stayed suspension.
As we are now at the height of the “CLE rush,” we urge you to review Lorenzon and spread its message to the members of your bar association. The greatest “gift” we can give our new attorneys in this season of giving is sage advice—to avoid becoming involved in practices that jeopardize the very license they worked so hard to obtain. Please use whatever resources are available to you (i.e., new lawyer committees, CLE, bar publications) to warn young attorneys of the potential dangers of associating themselves with organizations like CLG. If they would like to discuss the ethical considerations of entering into such a relationship, they may call our hotline at (800) 589-5256 or BOC at (800) 826-9010. We will be happy to remind them of the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Thank you for your cooperation and assistance with this matter.
Wishing you every joy this holiday season,
Jonathan E. Coughlan